The proposed council tax increases across Lincolnshire for 2024/25

Councils throughout Lincolnshire are considering an increase in their council tax bills due to economic pressures and an “extremely disappointing” financial settlement from central government.
Lincolnshire County Council.Lincolnshire County Council.
Lincolnshire County Council.

In what some describe as “difficult times for local government,” local authorities are facing the possibility of raising bills as they continue to contend with escalating costs due to inflation and an increase in the living wage. They argue that without such increases, budget cuts would be needed.

In December, leaders criticised the local government financial settlement for offering local authorities less than a 5% increase in spending power. They argued this was insufficient to match a 6.5% surge in operational costs.

Here is a detailed list of the council tax increases currently under consideration across the county.

Despite the central government allocating an additional £600 million to support UK councils facing escalating costs, particularly in adult and child social care, Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed it is “pressing ahead” with its proposed 4.99% increase.

Initial proposals were approved by the executive in January. Although the authority’s spending plans remain unchanged, revised figures from Lincolnshire’s district councils have revealed that less income will be raised through council tax and business rates than expected. This means the county council currently faces a small budget deficit of £500,000 next year.

The proposed 4.99% increase in the authority’s share of the council tax equates to an extra £1.44 per week for a Band D property.

If approved, this increase would raise the council tax for Band D properties to £1,578.69 for the 2024/25 period. This represents an additional £55.06 compared to last year, or an extra £1.44 per property each week.

Leader Martin Hill (Conservative) said the council was “under a lot of pressure,” like “most of local government” is, but said that difficult decisions had to be made in order to plug spending gaps.

“Keeping in mind the pressure that households are under, in particular with inflation and other things going on, we want to try and keep the council tax as low as possible,” he said.

However, the government has recently announced that additional one-off funding will be provided to help with increasing cost pressures, particularly those associated with social care. The council estimates it will receive a further £8m as a result of this announcement.

Coun Hill said: “Once we know exactly how much extra funding we’re getting from the government, we’ll need to consider what impact this has on our plans for next year. However, it’s important to recognise this is one-off funding and doesn’t significantly change the long-term picture. As a result, we still expect to have to use our reserves in future years to make up a funding shortfall.

“Thanks to our careful financial management, Lincolnshire County Council remains in a relatively stable position, and there are no plans to cut services. In addition, despite the proposed increase, our council tax rate is set to remain one of the lowest in the country for a shire county, which will be welcome news given the ongoing pressure on household budgets.”

This year, the council expects to spend almost £650m on providing a wide range of vital services, including:

· £305m for adult care and community wellbeing

· £114m for children’s services

· £49m for highways

· £25m for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue

The council has managed to find around £9m in savings by reducing bureaucracy and streamlining operations through the use of new technology. However, it faces £61m in additional cost pressures from rising prices and increased demand for services, such as adult care, child protection and school transport. This includes around £6m to fund an unexpected increase in the national living wage recently announced by the government.

The final budget for 2024/25 will be agreed by the full council at their meeting on February 23.

City of Lincoln Council – 2.92%

Citing “unprecedented financial challenges,” City of Lincoln Council is contemplating a 2.92% increase in council tax this year.

This proposal is a crucial part of the Draft Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2024-2029 and would result in an additional £8.73 per year for Band D properties. It is also considering a proposed 7.7% increase in council housing rents.

A report from CoLC reads: “Over the past 12 months, the council has continued to face escalating costs, pressures on income streams and rising demand for services. Inflation, pay inflation, maintenance and (capital) borrowing costs and reductions in local income stream all have a significant impact on the council’s cost base.

“These are in the main part caused by national issues, beyond the council’s control, and are impacting all councils. In addition, the council is experiencing an increased demand on services, by those who rely on the safety net provided by local government, driven in part by the cost-of-living-crisis, with significant pressure in relation to the cost and provision of temporary accommodation.”

West Lindsey District Council – 2.99%

West Lindsey District Council has adopted a similar approach, considering a rise of 2.99%, which translates to an additional charge of £7.01 for Band D properties.

A council report states: “We are currently experiencing inflation at levels not seen in the last decade, with the cost of food, fuel, and utilities being the main factors.

“Increased costs are also impacting our revenue expenditure for the supply of contracts, goods, and services. Our General Fund Working Balance is currently above the £2 million minimum and will mitigate any in-year budget pressures.”

Leader Trevor Young (Liberal Democrat) also criticised the provisional local government financial settlement in December, saying: “The council faces pressures from pay inflation and general inflation coupled with rising demands on its services, and will need to look at how it balances the needs of its residents compared to the resources it has at its disposal.”

East Lindsey District Council is considering a 3.06% increase for the 2024/25 year, noting that the ongoing cost of living crisis is impacting its budget.

The increase amounts to approximately £4.95 per year for a Band D property, equating to an additional 9.5p per week starting from April this year.

ELDC leader Craig Leyland (Conservative) noted that the increase was necessary for the council to continue delivering its services.

“It would be very difficult for us not to increase [council tax], given that the cost of living crisis also affects organisations such as ours,” he said.

One of the latest councils to announce its proposed increase is North Kesteven District Council, which is considering a 2.68% hike.

This would result in Band D property owners paying £189.45, an increase of £4.95 from the £184.50 residents were charged in the 2023/24 financial year.

While some viewed the local government financial settlement as disappointing, NKDC leader Richard Wright (Conservative) described it as “welcomed clarity.”

He said: “The finance settlement is less than we might have hoped and remains challenging for local government, giving an average uplift in spending power of just 4.9% set against a costs increase of 6.5% in cash-terms across the local authority sector.

“But having anticipated these and similar financial considerations over several years, we have, at North Kesteven, established a strategy that builds a strong financial base with capacity to invest in priorities and services and mitigates against volatility in such settlements.”

South Kesteven District Council – 3%

Also grappling with escalating costs and high demand for key services, South Kesteven District Council has proposed a 3% increase in council tax this year. If approved, Band D property owners will incur an additional annual cost of £5.31.

While acknowledging the ongoing struggles many families face with the cost of living crisis, newly elected leader Ashley Baxter (Independent) defended the increase, attributing the financial pressure to over a decade of underfunding by the Conservative government at Westminster.

He said: “They have deliberately under-resourced local authorities. “I don’t want to put council tax up, but if we don’t, then we lose the ability to deliver services. If we want to meet all the ambitions within the Corporate Plan, then we need to find resources.”

South Holland District Council – 3.09%

South Holland District Council is also currently considering a 3.09% increase, translating to an additional £6.03 per year for Band D property owners.

Leader Nick Worth (Conservative) warned that councils would have no choice but to increase council tax upon reviewing the financial settlement, a decision he approached with caution due to the ongoing economic pressures of the cost of living crisis that continues to affect many families.

He said: “As a district council, we provide vital services like planning, leisure, waste and recycling collection. The council is working hard to reduce costs where possible and to ensure service provision that meets the needs of residents. In addition to these pressures, we also have internal drainage boards costs which are increasing year on year.”

Also highlighting increased demand for key services, especially its homelessness support, Boston Borough Council is proposing a 3% hike.

This increase would result in an additional charge of £7.20 for Band D property owners and aims to generate an additional income of £146,000.

Lincolnshire Police & Crime Commissioner – £12.96

Lastly, Lincolnshire’s Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Marc Jones has requested a £12.96 council tax policing precept rise.

The increase would elevate the charge for Band D properties to £304.20 in the upcoming financial year, an increase from the previous £291.24, amounting to approximately an additional 25p per week.

Band A properties would pay 17p a week more, while Band H properties would pay up to 50p per week extra on 2023/24’s total.

An online survey conducted by Marc Jones saw 3,434 complete responses, with just 3% preferring a reduction to the precept, and 81% backing an increase in some capacity.